Unconfirmed news from the Nigeria Football Federation has revealed that the U17 and U20 Women national teams may not participate in the qualifiers for the FIFA Women World Cup slated for 2018. And the U17 Men may also be added to the list.

The NFF have been hit by serious cash shortages, and this measure is one of the ways they want to deal with it. But the question is: Can the NFF save money in any other way, and still save the U17 and U20 programmes?

FACT: It will be counter-productive to summarily kill off these age-grade tournaments, because once participation at FIFA tournaments is removed, interest in that group will follow.

FACT: Nigeria’s age grade teams are grossly over funded (whether intentionally or ignorantly), and over-emphasised by both the NFF and the government.

FACT: The NFF are doing almost nothing to promote or develop football at grass root level, apart from attending FIFA age grade tournaments. But there is a way the NFF can keep the U17 programmes, and keep their budget-sanity.

The NFF must intentionally reduce the cost of running age grade teams. Most countries send low level officials with age grade teams to FIFA tournaments, and they don’t give financial rewards to the players. We do. The first step is to reverse the policy that gives match bonuses to our age grade teams, and erase the habit of sending delegations to middling FIFA tournaments.

The NFF must, as a matter of urgency, revise Super Eagles’ reward policy. There is no doubt we all love the Super Eagles. However, the impression the NFF, the Sports Minister and the Federal government give, is that the whole of Nigeria sports revolve around the Super Eagles. The budget of the NFF, including monies meant to service other parts of football, is geared towards servicing the needs of the Eagles first, while the other parts make do with crumbs. It’s time to balance the equation, and reward the Eagles according to global best practises: earn as you progress in tournaments, from percentages of your earnings! This will ensure there is enough money left, to run other teams.

NFF must start marketing The Federation, and not just the Super Eagles. The whole of the NFF marketing plan revolves around the Super Eagles. How about presenting the much-loved Eagles as a part of a whole? The Eagles as a brand can sell themselves, how about the NFF insisting prospective sponsors tack a percentage of what they want to give the Eagles, to other teams?

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